Tuesday 31 May 2022

A House Among the Trees

Finished May 4 
A House Among the Trees by Julia Glass

This novel reads almost like a memoir, except we have more than one character's point of view. The biggest voice is from Tomasina (Tommy) Daulair, who was the assistant to the children's book author and illustrator Mort Lear. He has recently died and she is surprised to find that he has left her his house and its contents, as well as appointing her his literary executor. As Tommy reflects on her relationship with Mort, we see how they came to meet, and how she eventually became such an important person in his life. We also see how his life became hers in a way that she didn't expect or necessarily want. 
Another voice is that of Nicholas Greene, an Oscan-winning British actor who was recently cast in the role of Mort in a biopic about a portion of his life. Nick is in his thirties and, while he has been an actor for years, only recently came into real fame. We see his background, how he found his career, who he looks to for guidance, and his short, but intense, conversations with Mort prior to his death, resulting in Nick having secrets about Mort that no one else knows. 
The third voice is that of Meredith (Merry) Galarza, a divorced museum curator, who had formed a good relationship with Mort and his art, and was planning a new building featuring his work, along with other children's author/illustrators. She is surprised and disappointed not to be named his literary executor and get possession of his work. She is under pressure from her superiors to regain some ground in this regard, so the plans regarding the new building will be able to go ahead without significant reworking. 
One of Mort's most famous books is Colorquake, a picture book about a young boy, Ivo, who lives in a world without color until he discovers he can draw things that come to life and bring color to his world. He had done other picture books along with a series for teens and many other projects. 
One of the things he has tasked Tommy to do in his will is to create a foundation that will fund a shelter for runaway and homeless boys. This sense of a boy in poverty, feeling alone, is one that runs through the book in more than one way. 
Julia Glass is very good at creating strong, deep characters, ones that you really get to know the inner workings of. You see their insecurities, the personas they present to the larger world, and the way that they relate to a number of people in their lives. 
The novel brings these characters together and ties their stories together in interesting and unexpected ways. 
I really enjoyed this book and all three of these complex characters. 

Thursday 26 May 2022

I Was Told It Would Get Easier

Finished May 1
I Was Told It Would Get Easier by Abbi Waxman

This is a road trip novel, with a mother and daughter travelling in the eastern U.S. on a college tour. Jessica is a single mom, 45, and a partner in her law firm. She has mentored younger women lawyers for years, and is currently mentoring Valentina, who is up for partner. She has had a live-in nanny for her daughter Emily from the beginning, and Anna is more like a member of the family than an employee. 
Jessica is looking forward to the trip to spend time with Emily and get some quality mother-daughter time. But to add to the reasons, one of the lead partners has told her that he doesn't intend to make either of the women who qualify for partner this year a partner, for not very good reasons. Jessica has had enough of this attitude and has issued an ultimatum of quitting if he doesn't, which makes her a little nervous. 
Emily is also looking forward to going away, but not because she particularly wants to spend time with Jessica, or because she wants to explore colleges, but because something has happened at school, something that she has had a role in, and she wants the dust to settle before she returns to school and before her mother finds out. 
Emily isn't sure what she wants to do with her life, but she doesn't feel that college is the right choice for her. She is, however, having trouble convincing Jessica that this is a good move. 
As the two of them visit a number of colleges from Washingon, D.C. to New York City, there are many encounters, between them, the problems they left back in California, and other people on the tour. Some of these encounters are ones that may change their lives. 
I liked that the viewpoint changed between the characters of Emily and Jessica, so you got to see and experience both viewpoints, and see some of the underlying tensions of their relationship, as well as other worries that are in their heads. They are both good people, with strong ethical foundations, and this comes through during the course of the book. They are also very capable people in their own right and their own sphere, and while those spheres are different, they both grow to acknowledge the other's worth beyond their relationship. 
There are many other interesting characters that have small but important roles here, including the other parents and teens on the trip, the young woman who is leading the tour, and people they meet along the way. I really enjoyed this read, and seeing the characters grow. 

The Needle

Finished April 29
The Needle by Francis King

This is a short novel about the relationship between two siblings. Lorna, the eldest is a doctor, with the practice located on the lower level of her home. Her partner, Matty, is also a friend, and up until the return of Lorna's brother Bob from Kuala Lumpur three years earlier, had been a frequent visitor upstairs. Bob and Matty don't seem to like each other much, but they aren't overt about it. Lorna, a widow, also has a grown daughter, Edie who visits from time to time. 
Lorna and Bob grew up with a stepfather who entered the picture shortly after Bob was born. Lorna fondly remembers their father, who died of a sudden illness before Bob was born. Bob was a weak boy, fond of telling fanciful stories, until he was sent to boarding school. He returned more silent and shuttered. 
While he lives with Lorna, and supposedly makes a little money from short-lived acting roles, he doesn't share with her. She has no real idea what he does with his time, who his friends are, or much really about his life. He is in many ways as dependent on her as he was when they were young, but much more secretive about her life. 
As elements of his life begin to intrude on Lorna's life, she begins asking questions and learning more about him, learning about things that aren't that comfortable to know. As she learns of his actions, her reaction is also a surprise. 
An interesting, yet unsettling read.